EU REFERENDUM: DAVID CAMERON FACES CABINET REBELLION OVER VOTE
DAVID Cameron was braced for the biggest rebellion of his premiership after the Tory civil war over a proposed EU referendum intensified dramatically last night.
The Prime Minister was warned that at least 15 ministers and ministerial aides were ready to quit frontbench posts rather than follow his orders to oppose the referendum plan in a historic Commons vote next Monday.
By last night, nearly 80 MPs from all parties had backed the motion calling for a referendum.
At least 57 Tories, more than a third of the party’s backbenchers, had defied party Whips by signing the Commons motion supporting the national poll on the UK’s EU membership.
But attempts were being made to water down the referendum bid by proposing amendments to the original motion.
One amendment proposed by Tory backbencher George Eustice called for the Government to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and then hold a referendum.
Mr Eustice said: “This would allow voters to judge the Government.”
Downing Street sources said the Government would not back the amendment but welcomed any move that would “muddy the waters”.
Tory rebels claimed the amendment was a deliberate attempt by Government Whips to wreck the referendum bid. Backbencher Peter Bone said: “This could have been written in the Whips’ Office. It is an attempt to sabotage the referendum motion.”
And one senior Cabinet Minister is said to have been “spitting blood” on learning that Mr Cameron had brought forward the date of the Commons vote in an attempt to wrong-foot rebels.
Mr Cameron was understood to have ordered junior frontbenchers to attend an emergency meeting in Downing Street on Monday to be read the riot act ahead of the vote. But his crackdown appeared to have backfired when one frontbencher openly declared his readiness to quit and warned that many colleagues were prepared to follow him.
Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, said: “Some things are more important than party preferment. The bond of trust with my constituents, the views of people who have had no say on our European policy in any substantive sense for more than 30 years... I think I owe it to them to give them that say.”
Insiders said up to 15 frontbenchers were ready to resign their posts and vote for the motion proposing the first national poll on Britain’s relationship with Brussels since the 1975 Common Market referendum. Fury over the Prime Minister’s decision to switch the date and impose a three-line whip against the referendum plan erupted in the Commons yesterday.
Senior backbencher Mark Pritchard, secretary of the influential backbench 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said: “There is now a three-line whip from the Government on the Conservative benches, a three-line whip on the Liberal Democrats and a three-line whip for the Labour benches.
“Is it any surprise that the British public are increasingly frustrated that this place is more out of touch than ever on the European question?”
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, said: “What matters is that backbench MPs of all parties should be free to vote in accordance with our beliefs and in the interests of our constituents.” But the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Our position is that Government MPs should vote for Government policy. The Government’s position is clearly set out. We don’t think there should be a referendum.”
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: “The party leaders don’t trust their own MPs, so tell me, why should anybody trust them?”
Tory MP David Nuttall, who proposed the motion, voiced anger that the date switch would inconvenience thousands of supporters of the referendum campaign group the People’s Pledge who had planned to join a mass lobby of Parliament next Thursday, the original day of the vote.
The People’s Pledge yesterday confirmed their lobby would now take place on Monday from 2.30pm outside the House of Commons.
Sir Michael Black-Feather England’s first minister said; That Cameron is very happy for our brave armed forces to risk their lives every day to liberate people and countries from other dictatorships and to use them to spin on TV and the press about bringing democracy to these people. Yet, at the same time, he denies democracy to the English electorate? it’s not up to any one British political party to decide the future of the EU in England, it’s a decision that should be taken by all voters, and with Cameron now him-self becoming a dictator not listening to the voices of England that want out of the this mad cap EU that has no benefits to England, only burdens us with its bureaucratic nonsenses and cost the English tax payers billions of pounds each year so they can sit on their fat back-side and dictate to us here in England what we can and cannot do in our own country, so I have decided today to take the post offered to me by the English Nation Army as Brigadier General southern command 1st Airborne Commando England .